It’s time to reconsider Thanksgiving’s shadowy past

By Lucas Barquin

Americans are spending more and more on Thanksgiving each year. In 2021, nearly $1 billion was spent on Thanksgiving turkeys alone. It seems that everything nowadays is commercialized, and Thanksgiving is no exception. The question is, should we continue celebrating and profiting off of a holiday that has such a tragic history?

I myself only learned the true origins of this holiday a few years ago. My family usually never celebrates, but I do know that the holiday is really important to a lot of other families as a time to get together and be grateful for each other. But this is also an incredibly mournful time for many others as well. 

Thanksgiving is a time to visit family, friends and other loved ones, and to appreciate all that you have. This can be an incredibly self-reflective time for many, or just a chance to see your family, but for many Indigenous families, Thanksgiving is a time of mourning and protest.  

In the past, Thanksgiving was thought of as a time to commemorate the first pilgrims, their voyage here and the first dinner they had with the Wampanoag Indians. Now with the knowledge we have about Thanksgiving and the reality of the destruction that happened to Indigenous populations and their culture when European settlers arrived, it feels out of place to celebrate it. 

Imagine mourning your ancestors and the genocide that took place, just for most of the U.S. to celebrate this day and what happened. Is Thanksgiving something that we really want to celebrate? I personally wish we could celebrate the message of Thanksgiving, coming together and being grateful for all that we have, as a different holiday. Recognize and mourn the Indigenous lives lost to the European settlers and get together another day to celebrate. The truth is that the United States makes so much money off of it and it’s so deeply ingrained in our culture that no matter what, people will continue to celebrate it.

Maybe this year, instead of celebrating European settlers, remember the Indigenous lives lost that made it possible for us to live here. Celebrate the original owners of this land. While it’d be unrealistic for it to happen all at once, it’d be nice to see a future where Thanksgiving is about the Indigenous peoples that continue to face injustices to this day, rather than the ones who colonized them.